Friday, October 27, 2006

At war with books

At a recent library sale, this book caught my eye, but the inscription inside made me buy it. Just a few words--brief, but poignant. My thoughts went immediately to the mixture of fear, love, and pride the mother must have felt for her son. Then I thought about her son and what he was experiencing and feeling at that time during that horrendous war. I wondered if he came back alive. Or did this book and other gifts from Mother, as well as his personal effects, return home without him? I wondered what his mother’s gift meant to him, assuming he survived to receive it, as well as the letters she must have sent to him.

Psalm 16:11 - Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence fullness of joy; at thy right hand pleasures for evermore.

The name of the young soldier in the inscription, Carroll, reminded me of another Carroll involved with books going to soldiers in America’s current war: Andrew Carroll of the Legacy Project, a component of which is distributing Armed Service Editions (popular in World War II) of literature and popular books.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Unseen Hands

This didn't come from inside a book, but it's about the inside of books. And the outside, too. Princeton University has a wonderful online exhibit, which I found while searching for some information on a book. An enjoyable bit of serendipity this morning. The exhibit is titled: Unseen Hands: Women Printers Binders and Book Designers. For book lovers, this is an interesting historical look into women's roles in the printing business. It's interesting to note that women were much more involved in the business from the 14th through 18th centuries, but by the 19th century male-only unions relegated women to low-level duties such as folding printed sheets and sewing bindings. Some women, however excelled in spite of such restrictions and created lasting works of art and craftsmanship in the book trade. Their work is featured in this exhibit as well, one of several exhibits sponsored by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in the Princeton University Library

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oil Makers (and one retirement breaker)

Cataloging a recent acquisition, Oil Makers, by Jeffrey Share (Rice University Press, Houston, 1995), I found a section in the book called New Vision. Curious about what the top level oil industry folks were forecasting a decade ago, I turned the page to the first chapter--a profile of Ken Lay of Enron. Hmmm... It starts by touting the company's "innovative business practices." Yeah, "innovative" is quite the euphemism. The chapter concludes with Lay talking about the company's vision, where he is quoted, "Perhaps a future edition of your book can see how well we did on this vision." I don't think that will be necessary. We all know what happened to "the vision." Besides, Kenny Boy ain't around to interview. Or is he? Some folks think Ken Lay is alive.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Edward Gorey gave me a friend

A few years back I acquired a signed Edward Gorey book, Category, or CATEGOR Y (Gotham Book Mart & Gallery, Inc., NY, 1973). I researched it and offered it for sale, first on ebay, with no bites, then through various bookseller listing sites. One day I got an email from a potential customer who wanted photos of the tiny flaws that existed, including a light smudge from Gorey's signature on the facing page. That killed the deal for him. And that's turned out to be one of the better sales I never made! The next potential customer that came along also requested photos after we played phone tag and I offered to email a few digital shots to help with the decision. This was a collector item priced well over $200 and I wanted the customer to know what she was getting, as much as she could via the Internet. After some careful thought and some discounted pricing, she pulled the trigger and bought the book. We corresponded several times more about an edition question pertaining to the book and again on something Gorey-related a couple of times during the next year. Eventually, another book order (Gorey, of course!) and more emails, which grew more personal, as the death of a family member delayed fullfillment of the order. Condolences and health chat followed. Pretty soon we were corresponding on a regular basis about family, work, news about our respected parts of the world--all the usual things friends might get into during conversation. And we realized we had indeed formed a nice friendship. All thanks to a little book Edward Gorey wrote. Many readers and collectors subscribe to the philosophy that a good book is like a good friend. And so it goes that good books can also create good friends.

Puffing along in the world's slowest race

For the pipe smoking aficionado, The Ultimate Pipe Book, by Richard Carleton Hacker (Autumngold Publishing, Beverly Hills, 1984), offers pretty much the ultimate in all things pipe smoking. There is even a plug for the World's Slowest Race--a pipe smoking contest--with an accompanying photo of a typical (I assume) competition. I especially like the way they have the contestants roped off like a boxing ring. Is that for the pipe smokers' protection from crazed fans who might want a piece of their favorite pipe smoker? I doubt you will see this competitive event on ESPN anytime soon.